Let me be clear. It’s possible, just possible, that they might have one year left. I don’t think so, though. Not with the aging and defensively-challenged additions they made this offseason: Michael Young and Delmon Young. Neither of whom are ‘Forever Young’.
But, that’s it. Why? Because Amaro insists on ignoring one of the most important tools in the GM’s toolbox: statistical analysis, aka ‘sabermetrics’.
“I don’t care about walks,” Amaro said in January. “I care about production. To be frank with you, I’ve said this all along. All of the sabermatricians and all of the people who think they know exactly what makes a good club . . . to me, it’s more about run production and being able to score runs and drive in runs.”
Baseball is awash with more knowledge than ever before. The Phillies generated success with willful ignorance of that information. Fewer and fewer teams value their scouts’ evaluations as much as the Phillies do. That is where the Phillies seek their competitive advantage.
“We think we have one of the best, if not the best, group of scouts in the game,” said Proefrock, an assistant general manager. “We lean very heavily on their experience, their contacts, their different expertise.”
Sabermetrics, or the advanced research of baseball, extends beyond mere numbers.
In Washington, general manager Mike Rizzo commissioned a four-month study of the team’s medical needs, which led to the hiring of a doctor who analyzes players’ blood to determine what nutrients are required to help prevent injury.
The Mets this spring installed a system called TrackMan that uses missile-tracking technology to measure the speed, angle, and location of every batted ball. Seventeen teams use the system, according to the New York Times, and it could finally provide reliable defensive metrics.
Rick Petersen, Baltimore’s minor-league pitching coordinator, conducts biomechanical studies of his prospects’ pitching deliveries in an attempt to reduce injury.
The Chicago Cubs partnered with Bloomberg Sports in January to develop “a state-of-the-art player evaluation system” touted in a news release issued by the club.
The Houston Astros created a front office position titled “director of decision sciences” and hired a former NASA employee. The Boston Red Sox have employed Bill James, viewed as the father of modern baseball analysis, since 2003.
Proefrock would not detail the Phillies’ initiatives, or if any exist.
In a time when baseball teams are experimenting with other methods of evaluation, the Phillies trust their scouts to make those judgments.
“As long as Ruben is in charge,” Proefrock said, “I don’t think that is going to change.”
Which is why Ruben should not be in charge. He is trying to sell willful ignorance as a positive, not a negative.
I am in no way arguing against the evaluation process and the need for quality scouts. But to suggest that your scouts are so much better than everybody else’s and, as such, you dismiss tools that are being proven essential by clubs throughout baseball is simply ‘head in the sand’ stuff.
Look: players don’t have to take walks to produce. Teams don’t have to study stats to succeed. But it’s a heck of a lot harder for them if they don’t. It’s tough enough to compete with 29 other teams when you have the same data at your disposal. Why hamstring yourself by working with incomplete information?
In the last line of the article, Proefrock says, “As long as Ruben is in charge, I don’t think that is going to change.” Of course, Amaro won’t be around forever. But even when the Phillies front office finally, inevitably joins the 21st century, under Amaro’s successor or his successor’s successor, it’s going to take years for them to catch up to the earlier adopters. They’ve succeeded without sabermetrics before. But winning without stats isn’t as feasible as it once was.
So, the best we can hope for this year is a flukish repeat of the ’83 Wheeze Kids. Apres that, le deluge.